Remember a few weeks ago, when Matt Damon got himself into all sorts of trouble for being brave / naïve / insensitive enough to suggest that despite the huge response to the #MeToo campaign, and the appalling allegations against Harvey Weinstein, in actual fact, most men are decent and respectful, and would never dream of harassing or abusing women?
And remember how he then went on to say that actually, if it hadn’t been for Harvey Weinstein, most of those actresses would have been raped or abused at some point anyway?
No? You don’t remember that second part? Of course not – because he didn’t say it. If he had done, it would have been front page news on every news site for days – and Damon’s career would be over. He would be ostracized from polite society, consigned to the scrapheap of history, any future movie contracts cancelled outright.
So if it never happened, you ask, why did I suggest that it did?
Well, it turns out Lily Allen, on Twitter, has just said pretty much exactly that, about the teenage victims of grooming gangs in Rochdale.
And while those on Twitter who saw the tweet are rightly fuming, it seems the media have chosen not to mention it, instead simply reporting on tweets she posted earlier in the day in which she suggested that football should be banned in order to stop child abuse.
Lily, you see, just loves to throw out hyperbolic suggestions on Twitter in order to make a point about the way some people blame the entire Muslim community for the actions of a small minority. She recently got herself embroiled in a Twitter storm over a series of tweets in which she substituted the word “pensioners” for “Muslims”, tweeting “I don’t hate all pensioners, just the extremist ones. Can’t you see this country is being taken over by hate [sic] extremist pensioners”
So her suggestion that football should be banned to prevent child abuse, was in response to those who suggest that the problem of girls being groomed by (mostly) Pakistani Muslim grooming gangs could be resolved by halting immigration from Muslim-majority countries.
And while I have a great deal of sympathy for her constant efforts to call out prejudice where she sees it, her tweet, with its suggestion that some girls are just destined to be raped, inadvertently cut to the heart of the reason why grooming gangs were allowed to operate for so long before any prosecutions were brought. Because in the eyes of the police, social services, and the public prosecutors, the problem wasn’t the gangs – it was the girls themselves. Their vulnerability, their often difficult family backgrounds, rather than prompting those in authority to offer them protection, instead caused them to turn their backs. The police and the public prosecutor were reluctant to prosecute the gangs because they felt that the girls would not be seen as credible witnesses.
What’s really unacceptable, though, is that these attitudes still prevail. If you’re an actress, or a musician, or a journalist, or a political activist, and you have a story to tell about Harvey Weinstein, or another Hollywood personality, or a politician, who at any time made an unwanted advance towards you – the media will be clamouring over each other to be the first to tell your story. But if you’re a working-class girl from a relatively poor part of the country, not only does nobody want to know, but you can expect to be lectured to by celebrities such as Lily Allen, who feel that their privileged upbringing makes them perfectly suited to talking about an issue they have no chance of ever understanding.
Rape as destiny. You really couldn’t come up with a more appalling excuse for refusing to discuss child abuse, or allowing it to continue. Lily, you should be ashamed of yourself.